Friday, July 1, 2022

Democrats Get in the Gutter But Not Like THAT Kind of Gutter

Who says we're hopelessly divided into camps that are unable to communicate with each other? Here's David F. Brooks of The New York Times ("Why on Earth Is Pelosi Supporting the Trumpists?") agreeing with Jeet Heer of The Nation ("Why Centrist Democrats Love Promoting Right-Wing Extremists") that the Democratic establishment ought to stop buying attack ads against "moderate" Republican primary candidates in what seems to be the hope of helping the wacky candidates become the ones Democrats will face in November.

Which seems to be what some of them have been doing:

In Illinois alone [writes Brooks], the Democratic Governors Association and Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker spent at least $30 million to attack a Trumpist’s moderate gubernatorial opponent. In Pennsylvania, a Democratic campaign spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads intended to help a Trumpist candidate win the G.O.P. gubernatorial primary. A political action committee affiliated with Nancy Pelosi worked to boost far-right Republican House candidates in California and Colorado.

Pritzker actually spent $32 million of his own money attacking Mayor Richard Irvin of Aurora, and the DGA another $18.4 million, which is certainly an awful lot—Irvin himself had a war chest of $50 million, from the Citadel hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin, who's been mostly concerned with stopping Pritzker from replacing Illinois's flat income tax with a graduated one. Irvin, an African American veteran and former prosecutor who voted as a Democrat in the 2016 and 2020 primaries (Illinois has open primaries) and hedged publicly on his feelings about Trump, but not in text messages unearthed by WTTW-TV:

“And I hate Trump too!” Irvin wrote. “He’s an idiot!!!” 

Shortly after, Irvin added, “and a bigoted racist.”

So maybe he wasn't the perfect nominee for the Illinois Republicans. Meanwhile, yet another billionaire, Richard Uihlein, was bankrolling the Trumpy candidate, Darren Bailey, with $16 million or more, and Bailey now seems to have won (the primary is on Tuesday, but the polls suggest it's already over), and it's all the Democrats' fault.

But then

The Democratic Governors Association has [also] spent millions of dollars running ads saying that Darren Bailey, a state senator and GOP candidate for governor, is "too conservative for Illinois." Bailey has called the ads "beautiful" and recently told interviewers at Crain's: "Oh yeah, I dig them."

And likewise in Pennsylvania, Democrat Josh Shapiro's gubernatorial campaign spent a bunch of money attacking the Trumpy candidate, Doug Mastriano, an organizer of and participant in the Stop the Steal rally of January 6 2021 and recipient of a Select Committee subpoena, and Mastriano's victory is being blamed on Democrats too:

— And while Mastriano spent less than $370,000 on TV ads, the Shapiro campaign pumped more than $840,000 to air a spot that attacked Mastriano as too conservative for voters, an ad which actually boosted him on the right, our Zach Montellaro reported. Case in point: The ad called him “one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters” — which, to many GOP primary voters, is a feature, not a bug.

I'm kind of thinking, defeat him by attacking him, defeat him by attacking his opponent, they both work?

No, Brooks may be right in thinking the trend is bad sportsmanship (it was apparently Claire McCaskill of Missouri who started it in 2012, when she spent $`1.7 million engineering a primary win for the hopeless Todd Akin), but I think this time the goal is more sophisticated—not to nominate a particular candidate but to aggravate divisions within the Republican party, accentuating the increasing ambivalence toward Trump, as they have succeeded in doing in Illinois, where Republicans may be blaming Democrats but are hurling the recriminations against one another.

Interviews with more than a dozen Illinois Republicans point to external and internal forces driving Irvin’s flagging levels of support, which have exposed sharp splits within the party between moderates and MAGA conservatives that mirror divides playing out in other states and nationally.

Meanwhile, the GOP establishment, long frustrated by the state’s Democratic Party dominance, is experiencing its own rift. It’s angry over how the Irvin campaign was run, about how he was drafted in the first place and, most significantly, that the best chance Republicans had to defeat Pritzker may have already slipped through their fingers. 

Indeed Pritzker, who looks like he's running for the 2024 presidential nomination at the same time, had definitely dealt himself an easier hand.

Heer, who has been starting to sound more and more like a "Bernie would've won" kid, spins a dark Overton Window hypothesis that "centrist" Democrats are somehow scheming to move the GOP to the far right to facilitate their own rightward move and defeat the energetic young Democratic Socialists of America insurgents in our own primaries, with the collaboration of Republican contributions to "centrist:" Democrats in New York City, which entails taking the DSA a lot more seriously than I am inclined to do (it's really a NYC story). Brooks, naturally, sees a "progressive" conspiracy making Republicans more different from Democrats than they already are, when we should really all be becoming more alike, as

the underlying problem, which has gone unaddressed since Donald Trump surged to his unexpected victory in 2016, which is that while Democrats support many popular policies, progressives are associated with a series of social and cultural values that are unpopular with most Americans. According to a new More in Common survey, 69 percent of Americans believe that America is a country where if you get a good education, develop your talents and are open to innovation, you can do anything. Only 36 percent of progressive activists agree with this.

That’s just a basic difference in how people see the country, and time and time again Democratic politicians have been punished for the messages that come out of progressive educational and cultural institutions.

Note he doesn't link that More in Common (the name indicates the pious Brooksiness of the outfit) poll, and I can't find any trace of its existence; the only thing I can find is the organization's 2018 (not new) Hidden Tribes survey, which found that 54% of Americans believed that people who work hard can find success no matter what situation they were born into, and only 5% of progressive activists thought so

suggesting that, if there has really been a redo of the 2018 survey and the numbers Brooks cites are real, progressive activists and the whole country overall have become a whole hell of a lot sunnier and more hopeful than they were four years ago and Brooks should stop complaining ("progressive activists" are just 8% of the sample anyway). And if they aren't real and he's just pulling them out of his ass, why are we even talking about him?

My own feeling (just a feeling at the moment, no data), partly driven by the January 6 hearings and the ongoing primaries, is that Republicans just now are in a badly divided situation between their longing to get rid of Trump and their abject dependence on him, and Democrats in a pretty good one, as we've been seeing in the primaries, in particular last week's gubernatorial primary in New York, where the overwhelming winners were neither "left" nor "center" but Governor Hochul and Lieutenant Governor Delgado hammering out the broadest possible position accommodating everybody. If you have to talk about an Overton Window, don't talk about moving it, talk about widening it.

As to these little games with the ad buys, while it's really kind of disgusting to spend $50 million on one of them, I don't think they do much harm. It's almost nice to see Democrats trying to get a little dirty for a change, even if it's only McCaskill-style dirt.

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